Festinger et al. (1950)

The role of proximity on friendship patterns


The aim of the field study was to investigate formation of friendship patterns at Westgate Housing (at MIT)  for student couples.


The researchers made observations and interviewed the residents regularly.


Results showed that proximity or opportunities to bump into each other on a daily basis increased chances for friendships. After some months more than 10 times as many friendships had developed with people who lived in the same building, and even more with people who lived next door.


  • The researchers suggest that physical proximity increases opportunities for interaction, which in turn increases familiarity.)  The mere exposure effect is enough to increase liking.
  • Geographical proximity may still be a factor in finding friends and lovers but with the Internet, dating sites, and chat rooms people at distance can now easily contact each other and develop friendships or romantic relationships. The Internet is thus creating a “psychological proximity” that can replace the “geographical proximity”.